Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory condition that causes pain and stiffness in certain muscles of the body. Polymyalgia rheumatica commonly affects the neck, shoulders and hips and the symptoms are often experienced after long periods of rest or sitting. Polymyalgia rheumatica commonly occurs in people over the age of 50 and becomes more common as age increases. This condition affects women more than men and in many cases the symptoms may appear suddenly and develop rapidly. In severe cases, polymyalgia rheumatica may affect a person's ability to perform simple tasks and everyday activities.

Symptoms of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica causes pain and stiffness that commonly occurs in the neck, shoulders, hips, legs and buttocks. Other parts of the body may also be affected by polymyalgia rheumatica and it may also cause tenderness and limited range of motion in the affected areas. These symptoms are often experienced in the morning, after sleeping all night, or after prolonged periods of inactivity. In addition to pain and stiffness, additional symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite

Many people that suffer from polymyalgia rheumatica may also simultaneously suffer from a condition called giant cell arteritis. Giant cell arteritis is caused by an inflammation in the lining of the arteries and often affects the arteries of the temples, causing headaches, jaw pain, vision problems and scalp tenderness. It is unclear why these two conditions frequently occur together.

Causes of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

While the exact cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is unknown, it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Since polymyalgia rheumatica is most common in individuals over the age of 50 and becomes more common as age increases, research suggests that it may be linked to the aging process.

Diagnosis of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

To diagnose polymyalgia rheumatica, a doctor will review all symptoms and perform a physical examination. Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans may be performed to view any inflammation of tissue within the joints. Blood tests are also administered to detect infection or other blood components that may indicate abnormalities within the blood.

Treatment of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica often includes corticosteroids to relieve inflammation and reduce pain. Supplemental treatments for polymyalgia rheumatica may include calcium supplements and physical therapy to increase strength and coordination.

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